Since being selected with the 28th overall pick by the Brooklyn Nets in the 2015 NBA Draft, Chris McCullough has faced an imposing uphill battle. At the time of his selection, McCullough was recovering from a torn ACL injury that he suffered in a mid-January game against Florida State. Even before that gut-wrenching injury, there were concerns regarding McCullough’s inconsistent intensity which resulted in a bad slump.
Those two concerns pushed McCullough to be one of the biggest “work in progress” prospects in the entire NBA. From the time McCullough was selected, the Nets knew that it would probably take around 2-3 years before he’d become a significant part of the Nets rotation. Luckily for McCullough, the Nets were willing to wait that out as they recognized the potential he had as a lanky and athletic 6’9 forward with a smooth perimeter touch.
Nets fans would get a minuscule glimpse at what McCullough could possibly become when he made his NBA debut in a February 8th game against the Denver Nuggets. Through the remaining two months of that 2015-16 season, McCullough took on a role as the team’s backup power forward behind Thaddeus Young. In those 24 games, McCullough averaged 4.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in only 15.1 minutes per game.
Despite McCullough looking relatively solid in his limited role, the Nets were still hesitant about giving him an extended role as they transitioned into the 2016-17 season. Rather than that, the Nets “beefed” up their front-court by acquiring the island of misfit bigs that included Justin Hamilton, Luis Scola, Trevor Booker and Anthony Bennett. That increased front-court depth basically forced McCullough to spend time in the NBADL if he wanted to gain more in-game experience.
Luckily for McCullough, his sophomore season coincided with the Brooklyn Nets acquiring their NBA D-League affiliate, the Long Island Nets. During this initial season, Long Island would play their home games at the Barclays Center, the same arena that houses the big league club. The D-League and NBA team playing at the same arena allows the Nets to have a vast amount of flexibility with how they utilize their NBADL affiliate.
The initial glimpse of Brooklyn’s utilization of Long Island was seen at the start of the D-League season where they assigned McCullough for the team’s debut against the Windy City Bulls. McCullough impressed during that initial game for the Nets as he put up 16 points on 6-11 from the field and 1-2 from beyond the arc.
Since then, McCullough has spent most of his time moving between Brooklyn and Long Island. With the Long Island Nets, McCullough continuously impresses as he’s currently averaging 19.9 points and 8.7 rebounds per game on 48% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. As evident from those impressive numbers, McCullough has shined as a very versatile offensive weapon that’s both effective from the perimeter and inside the paint.
From a perimeter perspective, McCullough shows incredible confidence with shooting from well beyond the NBA three-point line. For a 2nd year player that rarely ventured out to shooting from beyond the arc before this season, McCullough has impressed with how effective he’s been from beyond the arc. McCullough’s confidence and efficiency is definitely warranted as the 6’9 forward has a quick shooting stroke with a high release point.
Coinciding with that solid perimeter stroke, McCullough has also established himself as a cutter, whether it’s on or off-ball. In either scenario, McCullough is incredibly quick for a player his size as he can move from the perimeter to the paint in a blink of an eye. An example of McCullough’s quick footwork is seen in the play below, as he makes a hard cut to the rim after setting the screen for Donnie McGrath.
After fifteen games with the Long Island Nets, Chris McCullough has arguably played his basketball since he was in high school. While that’s probably not enough for him to transition into the Nets rotation, McCullough has shined as someone that you should keep a close eye on, whether or not you’re a fan of the Brooklyn Nets.
With Long Island, McCullough has shown himself as someone that can take that spot-up three or make that quick on-ball cut. Those skills have allowed him to be one of the most exciting players in the NBADL. Hopefully soon, NBA fans can feel that same type of excitement around McCullough that D-League enthusiasts currently experience.